How the Body Processes Stress and Trauma

The body is able to process physical and emotional stress and trauma and heal itself. But sometimes, it gets trapped.

Have you ever had surgery? Surgery includes any operative experience — including, but not limited to:

  • C-section(s)
  • Back/ Disc/ Neck surgery
  • Shoulder surgery
  • Knee surgery
  • Knee replacement surgery
  • Hip replacement surgery
  • Oral surgery like having your wisdom teeth removed (yes! that’s surgery — even though you may not think of it that way)

I shared a blog article on my facebook page the other day that received an overwhelming response. The post was about the shaking that happens during childbirth and other physically traumatic experiences. And, despite being prepared for labor and delivery, the author hadn’t known about the potential for shaking or what it meant.

She shared how she researched and prepared for labor and delivery, and when the time came for her c-section, her body began to feel cold and to shake.

“After receiving a spinal block and lying down on the table, I began to feel cold — like polar-vortex cold. I asked the operating-room staff to raise the temperature in the room, at which point my husband told me that the room was already very warm — he was sweating. Before I could say anything else, the shakes set in, and this time they were uncontrollable! “

It’s not common knowledge that shaking is the body’s normal, healthy response to stress and trauma. It is the body’s way of processing the event or experience to restore balance and heal itself.

In other animals, the response to trauma is similarit’s known as the “fight or flight or freeze response”a concept developed by Dr. Peter Levine. When an animal is threatened or attacked it will either fight or flee but if it is run to the ground then the animal will “freeze” and become immobile or “play dead” while the physical body is still experiencing the adrenaline rush.

When the animal is in a safe state, it will discharge the energy or “thaw” by shaking and breathing deeply to return to its calm state.

You can see it in action, here on this YouTube video of a polar bear:

Similarly, when the human body has shut down the normal process of healing due to medication or as a response to its environment, it creates a hold or restriction indefinitely — unless relief is provided to these tensions. This holding leads to long-term myofascial restrictions — in other words, chronic pain, stiffness and tightness.

Working with my clients, I often see that as we begin to release myofascial restrictions — with myofascial release and unwinding — that the body releases the holding that happens as part of the “freeze” response.  The client may begin to shake, feel hot or cold, and breathe deeply to complete the healing process from the surgery or trauma. 

Once this healing is underway, we usually see a tremendous improvement in mobility, and reduction in pain.

Have you experienced the shakes after surgery? I’d love to hear about your experiences with how your body has processed surgeries and traumas. Remember, your body does have the ability to heal itself.

If you feel like you might benefit from a consultation or a personalized myofascial release treatment plan, or if you have had ongoing chronic pain and are struggling to stay active, email us at [email protected] or call us at 978-548-6475

We would love to speak with you, talk with you about what’s going on and share with you exactly how we can help you on your journey to recovery.

Jessica Kaloutas, LMT, is an expert Myofascial Release therapist and teacher for those suffering from chronic pain, acute injury and trauma. It’s her calling to facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal. She’s known for blending the ancient wisdom of Myofascial Release with empathy and compassion to offer powerful, mind/body education and treatment, resulting in personal empowerment, long-lasting pain relief and an amazing, joyful life. North Shore Myofascial Release is here to help you.

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